Tags: US | politics | Bush | veterans

George W. Bush: I Have a Duty to War Vets

By Sandy Fitzgerald   |   Sunday, 23 Feb 2014 12:29 PM

Former President George W. Bush has largely stayed out of the public eye since he left the White House, but now he is making a public return to help a cause near to his heart — helping the nation's veterans be successfully integrated into civilian society.

"I have a duty," Bush told ABC's Martha Radditz during an interview taped at the George W. Bush Institute this past week and aired on ABC's "This Week" Sunday. "Obviously I get slightly emotional talking about our vets... I'm in there with them."

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Raddatz this week moderated panels at a summit at the Bush Institute as part of its Military Service Initiative, and sat down for an interview with Bush and Jake Wood, a former Marine Corps squad leader and founder of Team Rubicon.

Wood's group is a nonprofit organization that teams veterans and doctors who have made a commitment to change disaster response. The organization has helped rehabilitate Joplin, Mo., which was devastated by a tornado, and the Jersey Shore after it was slammed by Superstorm Sandy. Team Rubicon, and the Bush Center, are both concentrating on veterans and their reintegration into civilian life.

"These are men and women who volunteered in the face of danger," Bush told Raddatz. "I mean, they knew right after 9/11 that the nation would seek justice and to protect ourselves. And some got hurt, and some of them need a lot of help. And our nation owes a huge debt of gratitude.”

Wood served as a squad leader in Iraq and as a sniper in Afghanistan, and is a Medal of Valor recipient. Bush said veterans such as Wood are an asset to the nation.

"Whether they have a job or not, there’s an opportunity for organizations like Team Rubicon, like The Mission Continues, to provide veterans with perhaps that sense of purpose, that sense of mission they had while they had the uniform on,” said Bush.

Wood said that veterans have a sense that civilians would not understand what they have been through, and civilians don't think returning soldiers want to talk.

"I think we can meet each other in the middle, and understand that really this is an issue of a lack of understanding,” Wood said. “How can we bring civilians and military service members together to share these stories so that there is a mutual understanding, so as a nation we can heal together?”

Dedicated volunteer work is one way to help fight for the nation's veterans, said Wood.

"The work doesn't end when the last troop leaves Afghanistan" he noted.

Bush pointed out that veterans' dedication and commitment make them ideally suited for jobs in the civilian world that don't always involve "security," but instead, should involve "leadership" roles.

Last week, the former president also was in the spotlight in a fight to take the word "disorder" out of the condition of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"PTS is an injury; it's not a disorder," said Bush. "The problem is when you call it a disorder, [veterans] don’t think they can be treated. An employer says, ‘I don’t want to hire somebody with a disorder.’

The U.S. Department of Veterans still uses the PTSD designation, and says about 30 percent of the veterans after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks study from the problem and that hinders their reintegration into civilian society.

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